Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to to have a co-branded airline credit card. If you typically book your airline ticket based on price and you don’t care if it’s with American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, Jet Blue, etc. then you may want to look into a non-affiliated airline credit card that allows you to transfer your points to the airline of your choice.
These are my top 2 non-affiliated airline credit cards that you should carry in your wallet. If you don’t care about having a co-branded card like the American Express Delta Gold card or the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage card, then either one of these recommendations below will be an excellent choice so you can transfer your points to an airline.
1.) American Express SPG card. (Yes, it’s a hotel card!) You can actually transfer your points to over 30 different airlines! All the major ones are included: American Airlines, Delta, United, US Airways, and so on. This means when you’re ready to fly, you can transfer your points to any of these airlines and then book your award ticket. To have the flexibility to choose which airline you want to fly is big! (Here is a list of all 33 airline partners you can transfer your points to.)
You earn 1x point for each dollar spent. This is right on par with any airline card which also offers 1x point on purchases. An airline credit cards will come with free luggage and priority boarding. However, if you don’t check luggage and you don’t care about priority boarding, then there’s really no need for a co-branded airline card after all!
What’s my favorite feature on the SPG card? When you transfer 20,000 points American Express will include 5,000 bonus points for a grand total of 25,000!
The annual fee for the American Express SPG is only $65 a year and quite frankly that’s a steal in my book. American Express offers some of the best customer service I have ever experienced with a company. The Amex SPG card also includes:
- Extended Warranty up to 1 year – If you buy a laptop that comes with a 1 year warranty and it breaks at month 13, American Express can help you get this fixed or replaced.
- Return Protection – If a store won’t accept your return within 90 days, American Express can give you your money back up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 per year. I can testify that this does in fact work!
- Purchase Protection – If your item is lost, stolen or breaks within 90 days of purchase, American Express can assist. I can also testify that losing an item does qualify! I left my knee brace at the gym and American Express refunded my money.
Bonus: 25,000 points just for signing up. That’s enough for 1 free round-trip ticket. However, the card does require $5,000 in spending within the first 6 months. If this seems like a lot, then read my beginner’s guide here on manufactured spending.
2.) When American Express is not accepted and mom and pop shops, then I would use the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Again, you can transfer your points to airline partners and book your award tickets. There are only 6 transfer partners though! So I would use the Chase card as a backup when American Express is not accepted. You could use your Chase points to book a regular airline ticket (meaning you don’t have to transfer the points,) but you get way more value when you do transfer them to an airline partner.
Here are the transfer partners with the Chase card:
- United MileagePlus
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- British Airways Avios (lets you book American Airlines)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (lets you book Delta flights)
- Korean SkyPass (lets you book Delta flights)
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with a $95 annual fee. While I personally don’t have a Chase card, my partner does and it’s his 2nd most frequently used card right behind his American Express Platinum. What I like about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that it earns 2x points on dining. So if you find yourself eating out a lot, those points can add up fast.
Bonus: 45,000 points after $4,000 in spending in the first 3 months. This is enough for 2 free round-trip tickets. Possibly 3 (depending on who you transfer your points to and where you’re flying to.)
Both these cards combined will only cost $160 a year in annual fees. $65 for the Amex and $95 for the Chase. Well worth it to start earning points towards free flights! I know people who still pay with cash and debit card and it just doesn’t make sense to me. Start earning those miles for your everyday purchases and earn yourself a free flight!